Blog 15: Mirror Shades

Today, I am feeling reflective, and it’s not just the mirror shades I have on my face to let people know I’m cool. It’s been one year since I simply showed my photo ID at Laman to get my library card and started my love affair with that beautiful place. As I walk over to the study area, I feel the dramatic wind coming from the heating unit blowing through my hair. My #1 Dad sweatshirt flows like an evening gown. I sit down, and get out my Danielle Steel novel that I’m finishing, since it’s due today and I don’t feel like renewing it. Although, if I did, they would be helpful and let me have it longer as long as another faithful patron didn’t have a hold on it.

Laman is the municipal library of North Little Rock, and as a lifelong North Little Rockian, I am proud. Although I have told my daughter Penelope that I disapprove of her getting a tattoo someday—but respect her right to get one—I have “Dog Town” tattooed on my forearm, right above Snoopy from Peanuts. All programs are free and open to the public, which is how I was able to brang my cousin, Stank Bait, to Bingo last week. They didn’t even mind that he was from out of town, even though he couldn’t sign up for a library card that day because he needed to get a Gateway Project application. It was a good thing the program was free, on the count of he spends all his money on stank bait, and sometimes those battery-powered bass that you put on your wall. Then you press the button and they sing. You get the picture.

As I’m walking out the door, ol’ [name redacted] hands me my fax I had sent to the library. I pay one dollar, as it was only one page. It was from Stank Bait. He just wrote:

“You’re better than fishing, and my wife left me because I fish too much.

Yours truly,

Stank Bait.”

I am overjoyed.

Blog 14: Hidden in Plain Sight

I walked through the graceful, automatic doors of Laman. I waved at the library worker, good ol’ hard-working-but-otherwise-nondescript, [name redacted]. I took a stroll right over to the Danielle Steel books, because that woman is the Ozzy Osbourne of romance novels. But instead of bats, I assume she eats oatmeal and scones. Instead of face-melting guitar solos, she just makes me believe in love again.

I have come for her masterpiece, Rich People Fall in Love, or Become Rich then Fall in Love, or Whatevs: A Novel. It takes place in New York City or some such setting, and it has a great airport scene. As I walked to the shelf, I tried not to get too excited, because I might have passed away from being too happy. It happens in Danielle Steel’s books, and they’re all loosely based on true stories.

I didn’t get too happy because, when I looked closely, the book was not there at all—not one bit. So I did my breathing exercises until my face turned blue, then I stumbled up to the front desk in a slightly dizzy, but decidedly calm fashion.

“Where is the best book in the whole world, Rich People Fall in Love, or Become Rich then Fall in Love, or Whatevs: A Novel?” I said.

“It’s February, so it might be on our Valentine’s display. Let’s check over there,” said [name redacted].

Good old [NR] led me over to the display table, and light practically radiated off the book. A tear even came to my eye. I checked it out for twenty-eight days. [NR] reminded me that I could call and renew it if I needed to. All I had to do was give them my mother’s maiden name for my security word. I needed that, because I’d only read the book fifteen times, and I wanted to have a while for my sixteenth through twentieth readings. There’s always things that I’ve forgotten. Did you know that the female protagonist wears a blue blouse from chapter ten all the way to chapter thirteen? I left Laman, once again feeling happy enough to croak at the beginning of a romance novel.

Blog 13: Glitter Computer

After the countless hours I spent on the phone with tech support and the warranty people, the computer company has finally given me a new laptop. It was hard to convince them that, yes, it did blow up in my face. It burned down my house of cards. What kind of weirdo makes something like that up?

I’ve gotten access to my own computer again, but they can’t stop by to set up my internet connection until Thursday, so I’m at Laman Library using their WiFi, which is free. They also let you stay here all day if you need to.  I find the one labeled “Laman_Guest,” and I simply click on it because there is no password. Since I’m off work today, I spend my whole morning surfing the World Wide Web. I’m doing a research paper on David Bowie and how he inspired me to break masculine stereotypes and start wearing glitter on my person. I even paint a lightning bolt across my face when I’m feeling particularly pretty.

I finish my research paper and I hit print, thinking it will go to the printer like everything else I print in this lovely place. But no printer shows up on my screen. I have never experienced such heart-throbbing calamity. I run to the front desk like the bolt of lightning over my eye. I scare one patron so badly, I hear her call the police and say, “I’m at the Laman Library. There’s a suspicious man running around, screaming about David Bowie. He’s slightly overweight and appears to be in his forties. His face has a storm on it.”

The North Little Rock Police get there at the same time I do. Boy, that was quick. I explain the situation to the officer, and she is so understanding that she offers to meet me for karaoke later and promises to sing Mick Jagger’s part of “Dancing in the Street.” I ask the librarian at the front desk why the printer is giving me such icy silence. Apparently, the printer is not emotionally unavailable. It just doesn’t have a wireless printing option. I get back on my laptop and share it to my email. Then I log onto an express computer and print my paper like I did before Laptop, Jr. arrived. I once again feel satisfied in my experience.

Blog 12: Subpar Coping Mechanisms Bonanza

I walked into Laman with a Big Gulp soda and a chili dog bigger than my head. I sat them down on a table across from the study rooms, and the tiniest piece of chili rolled onto some papers that I didn’t notice before. Hoping I didn’t ruin anything important, I took a look at the document. Laman had put a new food policy in place. No outside food is allowed, and you have to eat the food from the café in the upstairs rotunda. I felt a wave of guilt but, as to stop myself from panicking as usual, I rode across it on a surfboard of gentle inquiry. I slowly, calmly and carefully approached the circulation desk.

The librarian said, “I’m sorry. Did you just let out a yelp?”

I said, “No, I’m not freaking out. Am I in trouble? I brought food from outside the safe zone.”

She said, “It’s okay. It’s a fairly new policy.”

I sneaked back out to my car and sucked down that chili dog quicker than you can say “library behavioral code violation.” Truth be told, I could not sleep at night if I knowingly broke the rules. I don’t know how I’m going to confess to the North Little Rock chapter of the Chili Dog Society that I dropped some delicious ground beef. Chili dogs are to be cherished and handled with care. Corndogs, on the other hand, are a disgrace to the –dog world. That’s right, I said it. I don’t even care if their inventor rises from the dead, out of the trash bag he’s buried in, and chases me down the street. He brought shame to a once-proud, junk food-based community.

I re-entered the library, doing my best to pretend like the incident did not occur. Though I did sweat a lot. I reached the end of the desk where they keep the event calendars. The design for December looked lovely. But, to my horror, the events on the calendar where sparser than that time I tried to grow a mustache! But I took a deep breath, and prepared to ask the librarian why.

The librarian said, “I’m sorry. Did you just let out another yelp?”

“I’m just not with it today. So, why are there fewer programs this month?”

“People tend to travel a lot during the holidays so we don’t have as many events,” she said.

“True. Come to think of it, I will be gone for two weeks, driving an RV cross-country with my buddy, Mosquito Mike. We’re going to see every chili canning facility in America,” I said. “There’s one in Nebraska where they have a giant model of a human digestive tract where you can walk around and pretend to be chili. Really, the taste of it on your tongue is only ten percent of the experience.”

“I hope you have a fun trip,” she said.

I thanked her and left the library, where there’s always something going on and something to learn.

Blog 11: The Life and Afterlife of Terrance

Lilith McFarlin

Something terrible happened to me. I was jumping on the trampoline in my backyard when I got distracted by a squirrel that fell from a tree. Halfway down, it appeared to hang in the air, then I felt a pain across the entire backside of my body and hit my head. Before I lost consciousness, I realized we were both falling.

I woke up two-and-a-half months later to my daughter, Penelope, telling me I’ve been in a coma all this time, and I better wake my lazy self up. I asked her why she was being so harsh with me, and she revealed that saying, “I love you” didn’t do anything. But every time she called me a deadbeat sleepy dad, my foot wiggled. Then my whole leg, and you can guess the rest. I asked her why I’ve gained so much weight since I’ve been in a coma. Why wasn’t I skinny? Penelope said she threw my favorite quadruple cheeseburgers with extra bacon in the blender and poured that into my IV every day. Even though quadruple cheeseburgers are a sometimes food, I guess I was technically on vacation since I couldn’t work.

I asked Penelope what month it was and, thank goodness, I hadn’t missed the Black History Month display at Laman. There’s one book on MLK that has a picture of him giving a speech and, if you squint, you can see my father in the audience, eating a quadruple cheeseburger.

I think about how fun it will be until I ask Penelope if she ever turned in my library book. She said she waved it over my nose for the first few weeks of my hospital stay because the smell of Laman made my nostrils wiggle. Then she read it herself, threw it in the drawer by my bed and forgot about it. I asked her if she had lost all ninety-seven of her marbles.

I threw open the drawer, grabbed the book with its gorgeously glossy cover. Then I ripped the IV out of my arm and made a run for it. When I had made it halfway down the street, Penelope came running up behind me. She yelled, “DAD, YOU’RE IN YOUR HOSPITAL GOWN!! THEY WON’T LET YOU IN LIKE THAT!!!” I don’t know if you’ve seen someone sprint while putting on khakis, but I did it smoother and quicker than any of those fools. Penelope kept running with me. When I asked why, she said, “I gotta see this.”

I swear the automatic doors opened in slow-motion. My khakis made a dramatic swish-swish noise. I got to the front desk and asked [Name Redacted] if there was any way she could forgive me and my wretched soul. I was sure the book was marked lost, but it was here. She said, “Oh, well, it’s in good condition and you brought it back. So we’ll waive the fine. No problem, Mr. Terrance!” I have never been more relieved. “Say, I was flipping through a book on our display and I saw a picture with a guy that sort of looks like you in the background.” I felt like I had just reached the glorious afterlife since I’d spent so many weeks in the dark.

Blog 10: The Regularly Scheduled Program

Lilith McFarlin

I have some extremely bitter feelings about the way bingo turned out the other day. I only got a pack of toiletries and a water bottle. I had my eyes on that flowerpot. It wasn’t dipped in gold, but it might as well have been. The plastic was so shiny. I was last in line, because I was taking an iconic bingo selfie. As I got closer, sweat was running down my face like a football team. Then, the lady in front of me bought it with her bingo tickets. She had to know I wanted it by how my sweat made me stink.

When she turned back to talk to me about how my daughter’s oboe lessons were going, I’m sure she noticed I was making flowerpot contact instead of eye contact. To the untrained ear, her laugh when she talked to the bingo lady sounded like a friendly chuckle. I know it was maniacal, like she had just assassinated Ronald McDonald.

Now I’m back for a crafting program. We’re going to make dog and cat sculptures out of paint, some glue, plastic cups, and other household items. I made a test model at home. Well, two test models, because the first one spontaneously melted.

I sit down next to two ladies who tell me all the library gossip. Apparently, one of the librarians put a large print in the standard print section by mistake. Oh, the scandal! We all make our sculptures, and the lady running the program said my use of glitter was refreshing. I reminded her that my teeth are also very white and sparkly.

I leave the lovely Laman Library, feeling like a craft project held together with the finest glue that money can buy.

Blog 8: Dream Cop

The night of the Infamous Burrito Drop of 2019, I had me one wild and crazy dream. The burrito spillage incident left me strangely hungry for burritos. I just wanted to treat melted cheese and ground beef the right way. Everyone has their own way of processing trauma, or so says the internet. Anyway, the world spun into view like a Microsoft PowerPoint slide transition.

I was in the lovely Laman Library, which is how we all referred to it, like it was a Hollywood starlet. I looked down, and I had a badge on my chest and a billy club on my belt. When I looked closely at the badge, there was the shape of a book engraved in it. Next thing I knew, there was a kid running down the aisle at over nine miles per hour. Red and blue lights flashed out my eyeholes and I was on his tail. We zig-zagged through all the empty shelves. The non-fiction collection was being moved around and condensed so they could put the fiction downstairs.

I shouted, “Freeze, punk!” and the little scamp transformed into a book. He floated in the air for a second, then hit the ground. I put him on the shelf and walked away awkwardly. Then, I heard the thump of hip hop across the library. When I got to the back, what did I see? A man blaring Kendrick Lamar in a public space. I like Kendrick, but there’s a time and place.

I said, “I am a sinner, who’s probably gonna sin again. Lord forgive me, things I don’t understand. Sometimes I need to be alone. Bi—“

He turned into a dang book, too. It really killed my vibe. I put him on the shelf, once again hoping that no one noticed. I got curious and opened him up and heard a scream. I walked away even quicker this time. I tried to restrain myself for a little while, but I kept seeing infractions, like leaving trash on the tables and breathing too loud in the quiet zone. I got so carried away, that I decided to go undercover.

I wrapped a secret microphone in a burrito tortilla, and placed it in the bathroom. I put my ear piece in, and waited outside. I heard my arch nemesis say, “It’s about that time again.” Then I heard some chewing noises that were just plain gross, so my dream replaced them with a drum solo. After the final crash of a cymbal, there was a pause. I was afraid he’d eaten all the way down to my listening device. Then I heard him say, “Well, I’ve eaten half the burrito. Time to get some cheese across that sparkly clean floor. Oh yeah, oh yeah.” Plop.

I burst through the door and held out my library card like a gun. He turned into a whole dictionary. I left the bathroom in a hurry, not having the time to look natural. I found a free chair in the reading area, which was hard, because the giraffes were having a meeting.

Then, a librarian dressed like Billy Idol came up to me with a cart full of the books that used to be unruly patrons.  She said, “Hey, little Terrance, what have you done? Hey, little Terrance who’s the only one? Hey little Terrance, shotgun!

I felt my arm squish, morphing into the table of contents. I woke up to my daughter, Penelope, laying with her head on the pillow next to mine, her torso on top of my arm. She’d had a bad dream, too. If I learned anything from this ground beef-induced experience, it’s that I should never take matters into my own hands at the library.